The Magic of California Pizza Kitchen

By Scotty Coppage


The best pizza you’ve ever had. The one that can never be recreated no matter how hard you try. When I was 13, the only pizza I’d ever had was Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s and Cici’s. I knew nothing about pizza but I knew I only like pepperoni.

My parents flew me to Vegas when I was in junior high in the early 90s for summer vacation. My mom would be exhausted from the dehydration, cabin pressure and Dramamine associated with jumping time zones on a flight all day.

“Let’s let your mom rest,” my dad said.

We took the elevator down to the first floor of The Mirage.

“Let’s grab a bite to eat,” Dad said.

This is when he introduced me to the California Pizza Kitchen in the center of all the action in The Mirage.

“They put the pizza in that brick oven and use a wood fire to cook it,” Dad said.

Before that, I’d only seen the sorcery of microwave pizza and the delivery guy. While we waited for our meal, we were served IBC Root Beers in frozen mugs. Our pepperoni pizzas were served and what they lacked in the volume of a Little Caesars large or a Cici’s buffet, they made up in quality.

We were kings as we feasted elevated in the California Pizza Kitchen towering over the sports betting big screens, slot machines and the action of Las Vegas. This is one of my favorite moments with my dad and it wasn’t like he was a deadbeat who I met twice. He was always there for me. It was just a moment with the two of us after a long day of travel where we were able to kick back with a good pizza.

Every time we went to Vegas after that, we’d let mom rest and we’d hit California Pizza Kitchen. Those moments kept me a loyal customer for the rest of my life. They stopped serving the IBC Root Beers. The pepperoni pizza is still good but doesn’t have the pop that it did with my virgin taste buds.

Over 20 years since he introduced me to California Pizza Kitchen, we returned to The Mirage after a day of travel filled with two flights and security lines. I got my staple pepperoni. Dad got a pizza with five types of cheese. California Pizza Kitchen had lost a bit of its luster. It just isn’t as magical as it was when I was 13. Nothing is but I keep coming back looking for it and the threads are still there, like seeing your favorite band 20 years later. They’re not going to be what they were but that doesn’t mean it still won’t be good. 20 years later, after a long day of  traveling, I had my dad and California Pizza Kitchen.



I Need A Hero (Beta Reader or Editor) or Butch Vig

By Walter S. Coppage

Butch Vig in the early years at Smart Studio

I’m Nirvana looking for Butch Vig. I’m probably not Nirvana. I’m Hootie and the Blowfish looking for whoever produced their album. I’m looking for the Butch Vig of publishing.

By the end of 2014, I looked ready to make final tweaks and edits and it would be ready for the world. Then I got engaged. Then I bought my first house. Then I got married and the draft sat there stood up at the altar “Runaway Bride” style.

I worked on a book for three years. Fast Draft and Revision Hell with Candace Havens. Revisions of chapters. Killed a ton of darling chapters that just didn’t seem to make the cut.

That summer I didn’t want to return to the project I worked years on. I wanted to write something that summer. I wrote a book about teaching. The next summer, after a crazy year in the classroom I had no desire to write at all. I knew I would want to write and I knew exactly what moment it would be. The second day back at school. An epic quest to Office Depot was taken. Printer ink. Folders. Pens. Highlighters. I was going to slay this draft once and for all.

Then like always, school takes it out of me. I barely have time to eat much less write and revise. I started up “The Artist’s Way” with a friend of mine as a way to launch our creativity and meet our goals. We met on Saturday mornings and busy schedules got in the way. The 12-week course took five months.

We wanted to keep meeting but we needed to figure out how to be productive. We have books about writing and we can talk about writing but we need butts in the seats. How do we make ourselves accountable? How do we make it happen? What’s a realistic goal that doesn’t flip our stress levels when we don’t meet it?

We wrote out some goals and we would be in constant contact about how we were doing. I work in macaronis. When I was in kindergarten, you got a macaroni every time you did something well. I started giving myself macaroni for every half hour I worked. My goal was 20 macaronis for the month. This means I’m working almost every day on the story. I have 16 macaronis in a row.

I needed to read my latest draft first to see where I was. Every time I read it, I didn’t want to read it. I didn’t recognize things in the two years that passed. I needed to reread this. I needed to relearn the old songs before I could go out on tour. I had to find the reason why this story was important to me?

Worries of over editing covered my thinking. Would it never be enough? Would I stay in this editing loop the rest of my life? Was I scared of someone reading it that wasn’t close to me? I felt like George McFly. “I don’t know if I could take that kind of rejection.”


Once I got through those first chapters, I started seeing some good writing. I started seeing things that needed to be read. I’d need to rework those chapters or start the book in a better place. For the last few weeks I’ve been rereading the draft. I’ll put the chapter on a note card and write what’s good, what’s bad, what is missing. Sometimes I read great stuff. Sometimes I read stuff I thought was great and question if it’s still great. I’m so used to it that it doesn’t cut it after the 50th read.

Clutter needs to be cleared out but how do I know the difference between a really great side note and fat? I don’t want to cut this to the bone and then you’ve got an anorexic version of a great story.

I’m near the end of my reading and don’t know if I need to revamp a few chapters, cut clutter and enhance themes or just tear it down. Am I the same person writing this at 36 that I was at 30? When I’m not present in the macaroni of the moment, I start getting overwhelmed with revisions and cuts getting in line for me to make.  Some days feel like real progress. Other days I feel like putting my draft in the dumpster.

A published author friend of mine said I needed to get a Beta Reader before I throw a ton of money on an editor. She a Beta Reader made her cry and she went through 15 before she has her fulltime Beta Reader now. She said to do Beat Sheets to know where the story and arcs are going and Beta Readers will save me time and money down the line.

Fiver has Beta Readers but I don’t really want “Unmerciful Editing” in your Beta Reader Headline. I want to find a Beta Reader or Editor who is going to read it, tell me what I’ve got, strengths, weaknesses, U-Turns, Clutter. It’s not about finding a Beta Reader. It’s about finding the Beta Reader for me and my story.

I want someone who gets my story. I want someone who is going to help me make this story the best it can be. It doesn’t have to get me a book deal. It doesn’t have to take me away from my day job. I just want to be able to say that’s the best I could do on this and let it go. Then let it out into the world. I’m looking for Butch Vig not to turn it into “Nevermind” or “Siamese Dream.” I need a Beta Reader or editor to love helping this see the light of day.

“Still, at the end of the day, what everyone’s aspiring to do is to record a song that connects with somebody, that connects firstly with you as an artist or songwriter, and then connects with your audience.”-Butch Vig


We Need Rufus More Than Ever


By Walter S. Coppage

“Hi, welcome to the future. San Dimas, California, 2688. And I’m telling you it’s great here. The air is clean, the water’s clean, even the dirt, it’s clean. Bowling averages are way up, mini-golf scores are way down. And we have more excellent water slides than any other planet we communicate with. I’m telling you this place is great! But it almost wasn’t. You see, 700 years ago, the two great ones, ran into a few problems. So now I have to travel back in time to help them out. If I should fail to keep these two on the correct path, the basis of our society will be in danger.”-Rufus

Last month, I bought the “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” soundtrack for one reason and found another. The film opener “I Can’t Break Away” was good at every viewing since I was in second grade all the way through my midthirties. I hadn’t seen Bill and Ted in a few years but the memory of this song stoked a Pavlovian urge to Amazon Prime the soundtrack to my house.

I cranked it in my CD Player, one of the last people left to not surrender every listening experience to the stream. “I Can’t Break Away” was great but the opening credit cut is perfect next to the album cut.

It was other songs that you only hear snippets of in the film. “Walk Away” by Bricklin is the rocking song that is played to announce Bill and Ted’s presentation. I want that song before any presentation I do forever.

“In Time” by Robbie Robb is the song playing when Bill and Ted accidentally travel to the future that their band saved. This is the world where “the air is clean, the water’s clean, even the dirt, it’s clean” and they’re wearing cool shades and future clothes.

“In Time” has become my favorite song on the soundtrack because it represents more than the musical stylings of Robbie Robb. Every morning I wake up worried about what happened while I slept. An Executive Order? The dismantling of a critical federal agency? The firing of an Attorney General? A Consitutional Crisis in the night. This isn’t the future we were promised. I’m fatigued and exhausted and we could have anywhere from 4-8 years of this if Democratic Norms hold.

How I feel during the Trump Presidency



“In Time” gives me a one song reprieve of the present and allows me the vision of the future where Bill and Ted saved the world. A world where we have excellent water slides not crumbling bridges and infrastructure.  A world where we communicate with other planets not building walls.  Maybe 1989 wasn’t the moment for Bill and Ted or 1991.  Bill and Ted’s moment is now. Wherever you are, Rufus we need you more than ever.

About That “La La Land” Ending


By Walter S. Coppage

I have seen “La La Land” three times. Shannon has seen it four times. We bought the poster to frame and hang in our home.  We put the soundtrack on in the morning as we’re getting ready.  We love everything about this movie from the laughs to the tears.

A landmine of spoilers ahead.

Five years later.  Mia is a big movie star but Seb is not the man she’s with. She’s with 50-year-old Guy Patterson from The Wonders.   I hoped  (my whole theater hoped) that was it.  Then they came home and there was a baby.  The baby is going to keep us from hoping Seb wins her back and they run away together. It’s like “Cast Away.” Once you see the baby you know Chuck Noland is never getting Kelly back.

Then when they go to Seb’s club and she sees the logo, she knows who is there.  Seb steps to the mic and sees her. He doesn’t know she has a kid.  All he sees is Guy Patterson, Seb’s gotta feel like he can get her back, but he doesn’t.

Seb sits at the piano and plays that first song Mia ever heard.  Then you see the montage of what if he’d done it all differently. If he kissed her upon meeting her, if he turned John Legend down trading money and commercial success for true love.  If Seb went to Paris with Mia, the launching point of her career.  None of that “You have to put everything into it alone” speech.

Seb finishes the last notes of his song and they make eye contact before she leaves.  That longing and sorrow that things could’ve been different. Fade to black.

We could’ve had a sweeping ending where they end up together.  Mia could’ve walked into the club single after five years  and see Seb once again. Everyone would’ve loved that ending but would we be talking about it afterward?

“This is the dream! It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!”


My heart broke the last ten minutes of the movie. When I see the ending and especially the montage, it reminds me that I have the love of my life.  If you put enough mileage on it arguments, compromises, time and life can pull you apart.  It’s knowing not one thing breaks people up usually.  It’s the long game that does it.

When I think about the ending, I try to be mindful that all those things that try to break us need a different perspective. Since seeing “La La Land” when I’ve gotten nit picky with Shannon it causes me to step back and realize that this little crap doesn’t matter. I’ve found this amazing girl who married me and loves me despite my flaws. The movie makes me want to make things as larger than life as that montage. If you have a great love, you have to hold onto it like Seb should’ve done. Now all he can do is love her from afar. We should all shoot for the montage.


Harry Potter and the Magical Estate Sale


By Walter S. Coppage

This is the story of a quest to find the second Harry Potter book. I never read the Harry Potter books. I saw the movies. I would never have started reading them were it not for my wife.

“I wish I could go back and read them for the first time,” she said. “You have so much ahead of you.”

She said this a year ago. It wasn’t until this summer that I started reading Harry Potter. “The Sorcerer’s Stone” is great and I could see why everyone flipped out about these books. They’re funny and inventive and each character is so vivid. Did Rowling know the whole time where she wanted this to go and what these characters would become? Was that always in her head? What if the first one was never published and a worldwide success? Would the rest have followed just on pen and paper in her flat?

When I get ready to read at night, I’ll pick up the book and show it to Shannon and she’ll start humming the Harry Potter theme and I’ll make the book fly. When the song goes low I take it down, when it goes high I fly it with swirls. It’s a nightly Potter ritual now.

After “Sorcerer’s Stone”, the second book was next and it wasn’t due at the library until August 18th, might as well be a century’s wait. I thought I could borrow the book from someone. Everyone had read them. Someone was bound to have a copy. Every friend I contacted didn’t have them anymore or never owned them.

I went into my local bankrupt Hastings and couldn’t find any of the books. After asking an associate, I found the second book for 30% off. This paperback would have to tide me over until I could get the rest of the books at the library. The only problem was with the Harry Potter script coming out; those books were going to be in demand no matter what. I wasn’t going to worry about it. I had the third book from the library and it would take me a while to read that after the second one.

The next day, Shannon and I went to some garage sales and one estate sale. Usually there isn’t anything at these things. Some tools, a lot of dead technology and Rush Limbaugh books. I do like to look at what movies they are selling. I like to know what kind of movies they bought. Two garage sales. Nothing to see here. The estate sale had a lot of nice stuff but nothing we really needed. Shannon was in the other room talking to someone when I saw the bookshelf. There they were. Hardback Harry Potters. It was all of them well minus one. You had to keep them together. You couldn’t buy the ones you wanted.

Shannon was talking to some people and I kept creeping into the room trying to get her attention. After five minutes of that, I finally was able to show her.

“These look like first editions,” Shannon said.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“It’s a great deal. You should get them,” Shannon said.

I picked them up and carried them to the cash register.

“I’ve been looking for these books and no one had them,” I said.

“How much are they $50? I’ll give them to you for $40,” the cashier said.

What a deal. We cleared off room in our bookshelf to showcase our incomplete Harry Potter set.

“I think I have the one you’re missing somewhere,” Shannon said.

This tale isn’t all magic. Shannon didn’t have the missing one but that’s no matter. I have nearly all of them in their hardback glory. When I started reading the second one, it made a crack like it had never been read before. Wouldn’t it be something if those books were waiting all these years for me to read them?



Gimme Five: How To Thrive in Your First Five Years of Teaching

Gimme Five: How To Thrive in Your First Five Years of Teaching


“It takes over five years to be a good teacher.”

I spent all day on my first classroom putting up posters and collages. A life size Michael Jordan cut out stood over 30 desks. I wanted students to walk in and feel like they were going to love my class. I had just finished a summer in an alternative certification program to get a teaching certificate. I had never been more psyched. I was going to come out of the gates firing on all cylinders. I dreamt of being everyone’s favorite teacher set to change lives. Every teacher does even if they don’t say it.

After spending all day at the school, we had an open house for kids to see where their classes were. 8:00 AM-9:00 PM plus a 90-minute commute home. I was fried before the year began.

My first day teaching was one of the worst days of my life. I didn’t think I would make it the next day let alone May.

No matter how many classes you take. No matter what your intentions are. No matter what, you will not be ready. Favorite teacher? Changing lives? How about just making it through first period.

After struggling that first day through the first year, I remembered an email from a teacher that summer.

“It takes over five years to be a good teacher.”

I didn’t want to hear those words no matter how true they rang. How does five years help me as I battle everything inside the classroom? If you’re a teacher, odds are you were a good student. Maybe you’ve never struck out at anything in your life. Teaching will strike you out. You have to keep stepping up to the plate because teaching will challenge you more than you can imagine.

Who will my students be? You won’t know that the first day. You won’t know that for months. Kids that are great in the beginning you will have tensions with later. Kids that start out difficult settle down.

There was a world out there I knew nothing about and I wasn’t prepared for any of it. That’s why I wrote a book for teachers. “Silver Bullet Classroom Management” is full of every bit of wisdom I’ve picked up on in the last ten years. My hope is everyone can be a better teacher before that five-year mark. We lose too many teachers waiting for them to get their five.

I’m pulling a Radiohead and giving my book away for free for the first five days in August on Amazon. Get it for yourself or that special someone in your life that is about to start working on their classroom. New teachers will love it and veteran teachers can pick up some ideas to make their year better.

It might take five years to be a good teacher but these tips will help you thrive while you wait.


Get your free copy of “Silver Bullet Classroom Management” by clicking the link below.

Silver Bullet Classroom Management






Ghostbusters and the Kobayashi Maru

I knew something was wrong when there were too many kids in my screening of “Ghostbusters.” I’m sure the suits at Sony studios thought the opposite.


The new “Ghostbusters” is fun and clever at times but Paul Feig and the new cast was always in a Kobayashi Maru, a no win situation. Bill Murray knew that and why after decades of pitches and trucks full of money promised he always said no.

 “Ghostbusters” is fun.  It’s a good time in a theater on a hot summer day. I thought director Paul Feig coming off of “Bridesmaids”, “The Heat” and “Spy” would be able to give it a new twist. I don’t understand why people flipped out about an all female cast. The cast is the best thing about this movie by far. They just aren’t given the best script to work with. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are the straight characters setting up laughs for Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. The villain is hardly formidable. Scenes jump from plot point to plot point. At no point was I remotely worried they wouldn’t save the city.

All that said, Kate McKinnon as Holtzmann steals the show away and hopefully we’ll see her in more in the future.

 The first trailer says: “30 years ago…..Four Scientists Saved New York.” There’s a shot of the firehouse, the logo and the new team. The whole movie I was confused. Is this taking place 30 years later? Are they starting from scratch? There are cameos but are they really the same characters? This was super frustrating to figure out what was happening. Why couldn’t they pull a Force Awakens and have the movie be 30 years later after the first film? Maybe they stumble upon proton packs and newspaper clippings that were destroyed.

 Shannon and I were the only ones who stayed after the credits, mostly because we were dancing to the song at the end. We were the only one who saw the Easter egg. Leslie Jones is listening to a tape or paranormal sounds on her headphones and asks the gang if they had ever heard of anything called Zuhl. They shrug. So that’s what they want to do with a sequel. They want to pull a Star Trek: Into Darkness and dust off the villain from an earlier film. Almost 30 years and tons of writers and this is what you came up with?

 Since the first film, there seems to be a push and pull about whom this is for? Is it for kids so companies can sell toys and make cartoons? Why not just hire the director of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” or a Pixar director if you want it for kids? Come to think of it, I’m sure Pixar could make a dope “Ghostbusters” kids movie. Why have Paul Feig direct it if you want it to be a family summer blockbuster?

 When I came home, the first two Ghostbuster movies were on AMC. The first one is a classic, scary at moments but definitely creepy. The tone is spooky even though it’s a comedy. Everyone is playing it straight from Egon to Louis Tully (Louis is hilarious but he doesn’t know he’s hilarious.) Everyone is playing it straight except for Peter Venkman who is always armed with a quip and having a good time even as his girlfriend turns into a dog. We all want to be Venkman.

 I hadn’t seen “Ghostbusters II” in maybe decades. One of those movies I saw at the theater a ton cause it was at the dollar movie in the summer and friends were always going. At 8 years old, I liked it but it didn’t capture me like the first one. The first one makes you want to be a Ghostbuster. The second one makes you want to ghost out of the viewing.

 “Ghostbusters II” is not as terrible as I expected it to be. I did notice that it wasn’t as creepy in tone and it just didn’t have the teeth the first one had. I looked up “Ghostbusters II” on IMDB to find out what happened with this one. There was a popular “Ghostbusters” cartoon out at the time and it was tailored to kids. The screenplay cut back on smoking and innuendos in the sequel. There’s more slime.   There are more scenes of Bill Murray holding a baby than I’ve seen in any other movie of his. (Has he held a baby in any other movie? I knew he held a doll in “Scrooged.”) Then throw in that the script is almost beat for beat the same as the first one and you can see why Bill Murray didn’t want to do a third one.

 For years, Harold Ramis, Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd tried to convince Bill Murray to make a third movie. He wouldn’t budge, this from the guy who did two Garfield movies. At one point, the guys who wrote “Year One” had written a script for a third movie. This is what Bill Murray told GQ.

 “It’s all a bunch of crock. It’s a crock. There was a story—and I gotta be careful here, I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. When I hurt someone’s feelings, I really want to hurt them. [laughs] Harold Ramis said, Oh, I’ve got these guys, they write on The Office, and they’re really funny. They’re going to write the next Ghostbusters. And they had just written this movie that he had directed. Year One. Well, I never went to see Year One, but people who did, including other Ghostbusters, said it was one of the worst things they had ever seen in their lives. So that dream just vaporized. That was gone. But it’s the studio that really wants this thing. It’s a franchise. It’s a franchise, and they made a whole lot of money on Ghostbusters.”

 Once it became evident that Bill Murray wouldn’t take on a third movie, the major players started looking for a new generation of Ghostbusters. At one point, a Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill/Judd Apatow reunion was rumored. I’m so glad Oscar didn’t grow up to be Seth Rogen.

 Only a few names come to mind to direct a “Ghostbusters” movie. J.J. Abrams, comedy isn’t his wheelhouse but he did resurrect “Star Trek”, “Star Wars” and kept “Mission: Impossible” going. The perfect choice would be Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the directors of “21 Jump Street” and “The Lego Movie”. They took two movie ideas that had no place being made much and turned them into great movies. They have the style and chops to make a great “Ghostbusters movie.” Apparently they thought that wouldn’t be challenging enough. They decided to take on a Kobayashi Maru of their own directing the Han Solo movie.

 Streams crossed that if there is a sequel they will take more chances.